Bernie’s Sin of Omission on Free Education

“There are too many people who paid for bachelor’s degrees and have no job. I intend to fix this by giving everyone a free bachelor’s degree, that way it won’t cost them anything to be unemployed.” This are Bernie Sanders own words and they show a total lack of understanding of what college graduates actually need.

First, the problem is our economy is in the doldrums. Despite the Obama Administration’s manipulation of the unemployment rate, the Labor Department has reported that there are over 93,000,000 who are out of work and no longer seeking employment because jobs are not available. It is the lack of jobs that is creating the financial burden for those who have earned their bachelor’s degree. So rather than attack the root cause of the dilemma, Sanders proposals a hugely expensive panacea that only creates more unemployed college graduates. Not smart!

Second, the jobs that are available do not require a college degree.  They are primarily part-time jobs in the service industries especially the food industry according to Labor Department statistics.  You don’t need a college degree to flip burgers.

Now Sanders fondly mention the free tuition program offered by the City University of New York (CUNY) in the 1970s as his example of a tuition free education.  But Bernie commits the sin of omission by leaving out pertinent facts.  The Fiscal Times reported that on the college’s website, it verified that the college initially offered free tuition to certain students based on merit. In 1970, the university adopted an open enrollment policy with free tuition. Enrollment exploded. Predictably cost also exploded. The city’s Board of Higher Education expenditures rose by 56% between 1971 and 1975.  Cost escalated from $298 million to $533 million which they found to be unsustainable; furthermore, it created a fiscal crisis for the city because of taxes. So in 1976 the free tuition was stopped.  Bernie Sanders omits the tax issue, cost and the fact that the graduation rate went down with the free tuition.

California is another example.  It had a free tuition policy for all state residents.  Like New York City, California went into debt over this pie-in-the-sky dream.  High school students moved to California and established residency by living there for six months and thus became California citizens eligible for the free tuition.  The graduation rate for the state’s community colleges fell to 26.2 percent. Dismal!

Daytona State College in Florida school also has a free tuition program. It admits 100 % of its applicanst. Its graduation rate is just 38.1 percent. A waste of money!

Part of the problem with the low graduation rates is that it attracts students who are unqualified to go to college (another fact that Sanders ignores.). They are soooo unqualified they need remedial courses.

Another group of students who gravitate towards free tuition colleges are the misfits who just want to socialize and party. Colleges are “animal houses” where they can run amuck among their peers and be accepted. After wasting their year or two in school, they drop out and move to other party venues. They leave behind more debt for the colleges and taxpayers

Then there are the students who go to college because they don’t know what they want to do in life. Their friends are going to college so they also go but without any direction.  Not an unusual situation but they either drop out or if they graduate they have a degree they might never use.  If they find work it often has nothing to do with their degree.  Instead, it may be work that doesn’t require a college degree.  Unfortunate!

My point is that giving free bachelor’s degree to everybody makes no sense nor is it a solution. Those who have a bachelor’s degree need jobs. Those who will graduate with a future bachelor’s degree need jobs also to pay off their college debt. Bernie’s solution is a non-solution. It only adds to the tax burden of citizens who are already overtaxed and drives the nation deeper into debt.

I find it incomprehensible that there are students and Sanders followers who believe there can be a free education without catastrophic costs.  Bernie is a master of the propaganda technique of “If you tell a big enough lie and you tell it often enough, people will believe it.”

He works on the fears and ignorance of people who know very little about the real world.  If college graduates get a free education but have no jobs providing them an adequate income, then the public’s cost through taxes will rise astronomically. In addition, no jobs for college graduates means a diminishing number of future tax payers who will pay for the free education of those students flocking to get their free college after them.  As the taxpaying pool shrinks, taxes will continue to rise to cover the revenue shortfall for higher education because they are not paying taxes. In the meantime, the national debt will grow like New York City’s debt in the 1970s. Ultimately, a point is reach where the free education is unsustainable and must end.  What remains is a monstrous debt and debt has consequences that will have repercussion for decades.

As the old saying goes, “The devil is in the details.” Bernie Sanders is either in denial or ignorant of the consequences of his free educational proposal. The same applies to his followers. It is a good political ploy for getting votes but it demonstrates that he and they are disconnected from the realities of the world.


About camden41

Retired public school administrator Retired history professor: Taught Western Civilization, American Civil War, United States History, Economic History, Ancient & Medieval Foundations, American History Since 1945
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